My colleague Jessica Vaughan has published a look at the resurgence of the hyper-violent MS-13 gang over the past five years or so. It’s striking how conventional immigration enforcement is an important tool in battling this kind of threat. Vaughan writes that the Bush administration’s Operation Community Shield used immigration law as a key means of disrupting the gang’s activities; as she notes,
Documented gang members often were arrested on administrative immigration violations, which had the effect of disrupting the gang’s activities and ridding communities of troublemakers. In addition, these lower-level arrests often led to more significant criminal investigations of gang leaders and the dismantling of local MS-13 cliques.
Then came the Obama administration, which prohibited ICE agents from taking into custody any illegal aliens, even known gang members, for minor offenses or immigration violations. “ICE officers were no longer permitted to arrest and remove foreign gang members until they had been convicted of major crimes.” Gang arrests by ICE dropped by two-thirds from 2012 to 2014.
At the same time, the Obama administration facilitated a huge influx of Central American teenagers across the border, whom it released into the United States. The result? “Beginning in 2015, law enforcement agencies across the country began to express concerns about the renewal of MS-13 activity in a number of locations.” Among the locations experiencing the scourge of a revived MS-13 are the Washington, D.C., area and Long Island, N.Y.
As with Giuliani’s accession in New York, the Trump administration is reversing the feckless non-enforcement policies of its predecessor. But one thing stands in the way of successfully restoring order to the immigration system — local and state sanctuary policies. Until the neo-Confederate sanctuary jurisdictions are brought to heel, it will be difficult to contain not only ordinary illegal immigration but also the transnational crime that uses immigrant communities for cover and recruitment.